I won’t beat around the bush- as the title suggests, I, like many fans, have reached the end of my tether with Brendan Rodgers as the manager of Liverpool Football Club following the frankly embarrassing defeat to Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa. Credit to them, they out played us, despite being in a relegation battle. We simply did not turn up. Another trophy down the drain. And that’s simply not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable for a Liverpool manager to claim ‘that the occasion got to us a little bit’. I’m sorry Brendan, but that’s just not good enough.
After 3 seasons in charge, Rodgers must have been able to assemble a Liverpool side capable of coping with the pressure of a cup semi-final against a team of Aston Villa’s quality. What we witnessed on Sunday was a mess. I have no idea what Rodgers’ game plan was, or if for that matter he actually had one at all. Judging by the switch of formation every 20 minutes, it all looked alarmingly disorganised. I should make it clear, this is not merely a knee-jerk reaction to this one game. It’s been a long time coming now. Here we are with 6 games left, no trophies once again, and only the most desperate, faintest glimmers of a top 4 finish to play for if we’re being optimistic.
Put simply, we’ve taken huge strides backwards after last season’s success. Yes, we lost Luis Suarez. Luis Suarez scored 31 goals in 33 matches for us last season. We’ve hardly had Daniel Sturridge fit. Daniel Sturridge scored 25 goals for us last season. But this is simply no excuse for this season’s catastrophic failings. Rodgers was given almost £120 million to splash on transfers in the summer. With that astronomical kitty, the lack of quality or depth Rodgers has assembled in this squad is alarming. Lovren has flopped. £20 million. Balotelli has flopped. £16 million. A gamble which back fired massively. Manquillo never plays any more. Lallana has been injured and inconsistent when fit. £25 million. Markovic has been erratic at best. £20 million. It says it all that on Sunday, our most ‘dangerous’ attacking threat available on the bench with 20 minutes left to find an equaliser was Rickie Lambert, a man who is simply not befitting of wearing the Liverpool shirt.
Only two signings can be considered decent- Alberto Moreno and Emre Can, although haven’t been fully convincing, albeit with youth on their side. But two decent signings from £120 million is, put bluntly, shocking. In fact, Rodgers’ transfer spending count now adds up to over £200 million on players since his arrival. This includes Fabio Borini. Luis Alberto. Iago Aspas. The loan deals for Aly Cissokho and Victor Moses. A plethora of players nowhere near the required standard to play for Liverpool Football Club. Now of course, there’s been a couple of gems. Philippe Coutinho for £8.5 million might just be one of the best buys of the century, as was Daniel Sturridge for £12 million, although recurrent injuries are a cause for concern. Yet these anomalous successes do not compensate for the shed loads of money that Rodgers has sent down the drain.
He has not been starved of funds by FSG. Rodgers neglected to sign an adequate goal scorer to fill in for the inevitable absence of Sturridge through injury. Instead, we have a combined total of 4 league goals between Balotelli, Borini and Lambert, a return so poor that Rodgers has resorted to playing without a natural striker since December. But it was naive on Rodgers’ part to allow this situation to occur. We needed an Icardi. A Lacazatte. A pacey striker who suits our style and will score goals. Not a 33 year old target man (Lambert) or a throw of the dice gamble (Balotelli). We haven’t a consistent goal scorer and we have suffered. Hugely. Then there’s Rodgers apparent ignorance for the fact we have been crying out desperately for a top class defensive midfielder for years now. The problem is obvious; it hasn’t been fixed. Lucas has done the job well on the occasions he’s played this season, but again, he cannot be relied on for fitness, and neither is he top class. The gaping hole in our midfield was brutally exploited by Aston Villa with ease, showing more than ever how playing without a proper defensive midfielder (Gerrard is almost useless in this position) is detrimental to the balance of the team, and consequently our chances of success.
I’m all for developing young talent, but we already have an excellent base of young players and we needed to bring in established first team quality. We signed Lazar Markovic for £20 million. His contribution has been minimal in his debut season. Perhaps he needs time to adapt. He’s still young. But this wasn’t a wise use of money when we already had the likes of Ibe and Sterling in the same position. We could have gone for Memphis Depay or Antoine Griezmann; both wingers of a similar style, for a similar price to Markovic, but whom have proven they are already reliable goal scorers over the course of this season for their respective clubs. Why was Dejan Lovren our top priority for a central defender? Why did we overspend so hugely on Adam Lallana? These are questions which we’re all asking in hindsight- but it is clear that Rodgers simply isn’t an astute manager in the transfer market. I fear another summer of mediocrity if Rodgers stays. Danny Ings. James Milner. Decent squad players, but seriously, we have to be aiming higher.
So what are we left with? 3 seasons in, Rodgers has accomplished 2nd place in the Premier League, zero trophies and an embarrassing exit at the group stages of the Champions League. That, for me, is not good enough for a manager of Liverpool Football club, given the time and money he’s had. Last season was fantastic, yes. But we no longer have the luxury of a 30 goal a season striker. This season was always going to have an element of transition. It takes time to bed in new signings. I accept that. But Rodgers’ stubbornness, persevering with the futile 4-2-3-1 system before Christmas every single week, despite it clearly not working, has cost us. A good run of form with the 3-4-3 system (which Rodgers deserved credit for) from Christmas through to March was all well and good, but it all came crashing down with 2 defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal, our two biggest rivals at the time. We had too big a gap to close, and we’re paying for it now. A good 3 months of form is not enough I’m afraid.
The question is, therefore, if Rodgers is no longer the man, who is? There’s a certain Jurgen Klopp who’d be absolutely perfect for the job. He’s a man, who, unlike Rodgers, has utilised restricted transfer funds and led Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title and a Champions League final. Klopp knows how to compete with Europe’s elite. Yes, mitigating circumstances have led to a below par season for Dortmund, but he has the proven pedigree of top level success we need at Liverpool Football Club. Would he come to us? I think so. He’s said he doesn’t want a break. He wants to manage next season. He’s interested in the Premier League. It’s a choice of Liverpool or Manchester City in that case (assuming he doesn’t replace Ancelotti were Real Madrid to make that decision). Liverpool is a club swathed in rich history- traditionally a working class club, with renowned passionate supporters. Like Dortmund. Klopp has spoken of his admiration for Liverpool before. I think we’d have a decent chance. So it’s whether FSG would make a move. Currently, they don’t want to replace Rodgers. But they do admire Klopp.
It’s a chance too good to miss. A top class young manager with proven European success like Klopp is rarely available. I must make the point that Rodgers is a fantastic young coach. Ordinarily in this situation I would not sack him.. But I don’t think he has the all round attributes of a top manager. Yes he’s inexperienced, but we cannot afford to stagnate outside the top 4 for another few seasons. We have a chance to go for Klopp. I really hope we do. And if we can’t get him, I’d probably stick with Rodgers for now. There’s no point sacking him for the sake of it, just for anyone- unless we can upgrade. Apparently it would take £20 million for FSG to sack Rodgers and hire Klopp. Given we spent that much on Dejan Lovren, I’d happily see us do the same for one of Europe’s best managers. Not to mention how we would have a better chance of signing some of Dortmund’s players. (Marco…?)
I must point out that Rodgers has done some great things for the club. At times he’s got us playing some fantastic football. He signed Coutinho and Sturridge. He’s overseen the development of Raheem Sterling and the transformation of Jordan Henderson into a top midfielder. But playing attractive football doesn’t automatically translate into success. This season alone, Rodgers sent out what was effectively a reserve side at the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid. That’s not the Liverpool attitude. That’s admitting defeat before we even started. Rodgers also picked a baffling midfield of Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson and Allen in our all defining Champions League face off with Basel at Anfield. What’s the point in qualifying for Europe if our manager cannot cope with the scale of the competition and we cannot make it out of a relatively kind group, only to disappear from the Champions League for another few seasons?
Personally, I don’t think FSG will sack Rodgers. Maybe that will change over the course of the next month. We’ll see. But for the reason’s I have explained; failure to manage big game situations, poor transfer record and tactical naivety this season, as well as a lack of trophies, failure in Europe and his irritatingingly deluded post game comments which show a lack of admission for his failings (not to mention his treatment of Balotelli); I no longer think Rodgers is the man to lead this club forward. I supported him even after the Palace loss this season, when many were calling for him to be sacked. But I’ve run out of patience. You could argue it’s not his fault. Some players haven’t been good enough. Partly that may hold some truth. But ultimately the manager has a responsibility to ensure he assembles a squad of sufficient depth and quality, and that he gets the very best out of the players at his disposal, and for me, Rodgers has not done that. If he does stay in the job for next season, I will back him. Of course. If he leads us to success in the future, I will readily admit that I was too quick to judge. But there is a chance to make a radical change for the long term good of the club, in Jurgen Klopp and I sincerely hope we try. Because that’s what I care about. It’s not about being ‘fair’ to Rodgers and giving him time. He’s had time. Kenny Dalglish got sacked after winning a trophy. This is Liverpool Football Club, and the standards are high. The fans demand success. It’s time for a change.